Pawlenty’s pastor named to Obama’s faith council
President Obama named a dozen faith leaders to the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships on Friday, and two of them hail from Minnesota. Leith Anderson of the National Association of Evangelicals, who is also Tim Pawlenty’s pastor, was appointed by Obama, as was fellow Minnesota Bishop Mark Hanson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The council, formerly known under President Bush as the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, has had a healthy number of Minnesotans under Obama.
Anderson has been the head of the NAE since 2006, and he’s been the pastor of Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie since 1977. Pawlenty’s wife Mary has been a long-time member of Wooddale, and Tim Pawlenty joined the church after the two married in the late-1980s.
Anderson has been seen as a moderate evangelical, eager to find agreement on issues with both sides of the political aisle. In early December, the NEA released a survey outlining 18 policy positions on which Obama and evangelicals agree.
“In the current political climate, many focus their energy on fueling issues of disagreement – people of faith included,” Anderson said at the time. “But, I find it really interesting that evangelical leaders readily look for where we can agree and support.”
Obama also appointed ELCA Bishop Mark Hanson, who has been serving as the presiding bishop since 2001. He oversaw a contentious assembly meeting in Minneapolis in 2008 where the church voted to allow congregations to have gay and lesbian pastors in committed relationships.
And earlier this year, Hanson appeared in a video urging an and to anti-LGBT bullying as part of the It Gets Better campaign.
The response to his video was strong on both sides of the debate over homosexuality within Christianity.
“This is an evangelical moment given to us like none other,” Hanson said in a statement about the controversy, “because we live in a culture where most people see the Christian witness as an obsession with drawing lines in the sand and expending enormous energies defining who is on the right side of that line and who is on the rejected side. We know from the biblical witness, however, to beware of drawing lines in the sand, because Jesus is going to be standing on both sides of the line of the sand. For that, he got nailed to a cross.”
Currently serving on Obama’s faith council is Minnesotan Peg Chemberlin who is the president of the National Council of Churches and executive director of the Minnesota Council of Churches. Her term is set to expire this year.
In addition to the Minnesotans on the list, Obama also appointed the Reverend Elder Nancy L. Wilson of the Metropolitan Community Churches, a Christian denomination that sprang out of the LGBT community.